A new day is beginning; the sunlight makes its way into the room through a chink in the curtains. The magpies sing gracious melodies, which stand out in the unusual silence. I open my eyes but do not rush out of bed to get ready for work. Not today. Today I will not spend one hour waiting at the traffic lights to reach school and another hour to return home. Today is not a normal day, not like those I have known so far.
It is 2020, the world is in lock-down due to a pandemic, and it is not fiction. A deadly virus, which started in Wuhan, China, and was concealed by the Communist regime for weeks, is quickly developing everywhere, infecting, killing, and causing panic. Some places are more affected than others and unfortunately, on top of the list, is my beloved Italy, where those I love are fighting a relentless battle against an invisible enemy that attacks the lungs through the airways and has already claimed many lives.
While sipping my coffee, lost in my thoughts, I look outside through the large windows: All the gardens in the neighborhood are filled with flowers and luxuriant vegetation. I have always loved Autumn in Australia because it truly resembles Spring in Italy. Every year the blossoming nature reminds us, with its powerful beauty, that life cannot be stopped. I stare at the clear blue sky: the truth is that beyond the darkness there is always light.
Despite what it may seem on the surface, the universe is a body whose mechanism is perfectly balanced — loss and gain, good and evil, beauty and ugliness, yin and yang belong and precisely interact in it.
We often feel that too many unjust actions go unpunished and we have become used to witnessing all sorts of bad deeds. Many years ago, I reached the point of feeling hopeless, heartbroken, and helpless. I could see the world filled with dirt, corruption, cruelty, and violence. Human beings lacked compassion toward each other and were progressively destroying the environment. I could not understand why this was happening or how to reverse the tide we were all being drawn into. In my search for answers, I happened to find a different angle to look at things, an unusual perspective for most Westerners, but quite common in oriental cultures.
Growing up as a catholic, time and time again I had heard that everything happened for a reason, God knew that reason, and having faith was the solution. Even though I agreed with that idea, I felt that something was missing.
Buddhists believe in karma, the equivalent of sin in Western religions, including Christianity. According to these religions, bad deeds are forgiven through repentance, whereas for the Buddha school, karma is actually a black matter and must be paid off. This happens over the numerous lives of a sentient being’s reincarnation cycle. All of a sudden, I could see how it made sense. Yes, there is a higher plane, but fate is also determined by karmic relationships and individual choices. Behind all hardships, there are karmic reasons that one cannot always see, something that needs to be paid off that could be from previous lives. You cannot change the divine plan, but by making good choices, you can improve yourself, shed karma, and accumulate virtue, which is rewarded. The whole environment around such a being will benefit from the process.
This perspective, which I simplified and shortened, helped me accept and understand many painful life events that I now take as learning opportunities and tests to better myself. That is also how I started to live according to the universal values of Falun Dafa, a cultivation way of the Buddha school, based on Truth, Compassion, and Forbearance.
Going back to the delicate moment we are now going through, I have heard many people say that the universe is finally having its revenge and taking back what we stole. Others are convinced that mother nature and the divine are punishing mankind for its arrogance and years of repeated bad deeds. For some, who only accept scientific knowledge, these considerations are unbelievable, pure superstition, while others can see some truth in them and are turning to God for help. Despite people’s differences, surely everyone can see how positive and negative, good and evil are interacting right here, before our eyes, making us reevaluate and rethink our lifestyles, as well as the relationships with ourselves and others.
All those daily-routine gestures that we always took for granted, like hugging, kissing and shaking hands, have become a danger to our health, acquiring a whole new meaning. I wonder if people are going to go back to tradition and resume curtsying and bowing. On the one hand, people are staying away from each other, out of fear of being infected, but on the other hand, communities are discovering a new sense of solidarity. Countless acts of kindness are hitting the news and being spread on social media. Neighbors are leaving notes in each other’s letterboxes offering help to those in need; coffees, food, and groceries are being paid for so that those who lost their jobs can find some relief; customers are supporting local businesses, which are trying to keep afloat due to the extreme measures being taken to slow the pandemic.
People are forced to stay inside and some are finding this particularly hard, due to their individual circumstances, or simply their inability to deal with their own selves. Others, on the contrary, are finding relief and joy in being given the chance to stop and reflect, reconnect with their human nature, their families, and maybe with the divine, meditate, read, and dedicate time to their hobbies. For this second group, stillness is an inner journey, a blessing and an opportunity to search for the truth.
As history reveals, over the centuries there have been pandemics, natural disasters, and the fall of many glorious civilizations, but our current generation, used to traveling everywhere with no borders or limitations, have never experienced anything similar. All of a sudden, countries are closed and invisible and unsurmountable walls keep people apart. Cities and states are being ruled by the military, punishing those citizens who dare to go outside without a valid reason, such as buying groceries or medication, going to a doctor or walking the dog in the surroundings of their homes. Despite the situation, many are rediscovering their families, the joy of a home-cooked meal in no hurry, as well as the relief of not existing just to “produce.”
In the meantime, outside, while humans are withdrawing, nature is flourishing and thriving. Ducks, hogs, deer, and wild animals have been pictured exploring deserted cities and towns, whereas fish are filling the now unpolluted waters around the world. Above us, a bluer than ever sky frames this beautiful portrait.
In this surreal situation, we are perhaps all realizing how little we are and wondering what the future will bring. The hope is for a positive change, for our ability to use the current events as a lesson and a reminder of how to be more human and perhaps rediscover the divine. As I always say, we can only “ride the wave,” but we are given options and it is up to us to make good choices, for ourselves and those around us.